BETHEL — The Bethel chapter of the AARP Age-Friendly Community will be resuming its exercise program on Jan. 10 at 1:30 p.m.

Seniors age 55 and older will be able to walk in the Gould Academy Bingham Gym at 53 Elm St. in Bethel on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Jackie Cressy, representative for the AFC, said they anticipate the program to run until mid-April, when people can hopefully walk outside again.

Cressy said the idea for the walking program is the result of “two ideas coming together quite serendipitously.”

The AFC program has several elements of enrichment they like to focus on, with social interaction and health being just two of them. When the AFC set out to design a program that focused on those two elements, a stroke of luck fell upon them.

“Just as we were beginning to develop our action plan (for a program), a Gould Academy representative came to (Bethel’s) recreation committee and proposed that Gould would be happy to make its older, less-used gymnasium available to seniors for whatever physical activity they might be interested in,” Cressy said.

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Along with the many benefits of walking — such as heart strengthening, weight loss and energy boosts — social interaction for seniors is crucial. Cressy said the program is designed to help get people out of their homes and talking with their neighbors.

“Having specific days and times means that participants know that there will be others to walk with,” Cressy said. “Sometimes that is all the motivation that people need to get going.”

The program was given a ‘test run’ in November and December with walking dates on Nov. 29, and Dec. 1, 6 and 8. The number of participants grew exponentially with each date. So far, Cressy said 16 seniors have taken advantage of the program and more plan on being there this second time around.

Although signing up isn’t required to join, participants are asked that when they show up to the gym to walk, they sign in and fill out a liability waiver their first time attending.

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